For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure. Our focus this time is STL CardGals. Laura and Holly recap most every series and usually bring a very positive approach to whatever is going on with the Birds. Find them on iTunes and check out their website for some totally biased baseball.
Player: Eric Fryer
Season stats: 24 games, 41 PA, 7 R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 7 K, .368/.415/.421, 125 OPS+, 0.6 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 1
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Started the season with six hits in his first six at-bats….had his best day April 17, when he went 3-3 with two doubles and two RBI….also had a multi-hit game May 20 against Arizona, despite entering the game in the eighth….interestingly, never had an at-bat in back to back games….did not make an error while in St. Louis.
Negatives: Hit .250/.294/.250 after his opening hitting streak snapped….struggled in May, hitting just .214 while getting 15 plate appearances….had a catcher’s ERA of 5.06 while a Cardinal….two-thirds of his WAR total came from the defensive side….was 0-1 trying to steal a base.
Overview: I don’t know if any other town would make such a big deal out of a backup catcher. When Fryer was designated for assignment after Brayan Pena healed up the first time, there were some that were up in arms. To be fair, Fryer had done a fine job while in St. Louis and his production had seemed strong enough to allow Yadier Molina to rest more than he did. (You know, that whole spring training plan that always seems to get tossed out the window.) Given the low bars of the past catchers such as Tony Cruz or Jason LaRue, Fryer’s production, inflated as it might have been by his early success, still seemed to be where you wanted to keep him around if at all possible.
Of course, in the short term that blew up on the Cardinals because Fryer was claimed off waivers by the Pirates just in time for him to come to St. Louis and get key hits against the Cardinals (and when you look back and see the Cards needed just one game, that hurts even more) while Pena played like two games and got hurt again. However, the front office probably realized Fryer was due for a regression. Even with those early hits against the Cards, Fryer hit just .218/.300/.269 in 36 games for the Bucs. In today’s world especially, our big picture thinking gets overlooked for what’s in the now. There’s a reason fans don’t run front offices.
Outlook: Fryer still isn’t arbitration eligible, which seems strange since it feels like he’s been around a while. I have no idea if Pittsburgh will bring him back as a backup or he’ll have to search elsewhere for such a job. Most likely he’ll be spending time at AAA as insurance for some club.